September 2006, Vol. 18, No.9

WEFTEC.06 Preview

WEFTEC.06 Preview - Compounds of Emerging Concern Focus of Special WEFTEC.06 Session

At WEFTEC®.05, the emerging contaminants detected in rivers and streams, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and industrial chemicals, were just that — emerging. In 2005, water and wastewater professionals were sharing research about what was being found in streams and rivers. They were exploring detection methods at WEFTEC, and raising questions about the environment, aquatic life, and human health. But as a glance at any major newspaper in the past year shows, emerging contaminants have become a more mainstream concern. As the technology for detecting such contaminants has advanced in the last 10 years, scientists have revealed a growing list of compounds in our waters.

At WEFTEC®.06 in Dallas, a session focusing on these contaminants, now referred to as compounds of emerging concern (CECs), promises again to be a well-attended event. It is important to note, however, that while the technology for detection has been refined in the last year, increased awareness of available detection technologies has been the most significant change.

“There has been a measurable change in awareness,” said Akin Babatola, laboratory and environmental compliance manager for the City of Santa Cruz (Calif.), and vice chair of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Laboratory Practices Committee.

This awareness and technological fine-tuning, and what it means for research, public response, and the wastewater professionals, will be addressed at the WEFTEC.06 special session “Compounds of Emerging Concern: Endocrine Disrupting Compounds,” scheduled for Oct. 24 from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Babatola will be one of the speakers.

Jay Witherspoon, vice president of CH2M Hill (Englewood, Colo.) and chair of the Compounds of Emerging Concern Community of Practice, said the session will include white papers covering “what we know, what we don’t know but are very interested in, and where we should head to address the issue. They will capture the latest known information and help direct us on future paths forward.”

The tentative agenda includes such topics as sources and routes of human exposure to endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) in the environment; human and wildlife effects from EDCs; existing, planned, or possible regulations for EDCs; development of analytical methods for EDCs; effects of wastewater treatment on EDCs; and EDC source reduction ideas and programs. The presentations will be followed by an open discussion among speakers and the audience.

Awareness of Advanced Testing Methods
When Babatola and the co-authors of Emerging Compounds of Concern —Analytical White Paper (to be presented at WEFTEC.06) started meeting, it became clear there was a general lack of awareness regarding the testing technology available to the wastewater industry.

“Even those people that ran compliance programs and the laboratories that run compliance programs didn’t know there were methods [for testing EDCs] that were already validated, and had been [validated] for 2 to 4 years,” Babatola said. “So awareness for some of my colleagues changed this year.”
Now that the awareness is there, or at least growing, Babatola said it’s up to resource managers of wastewater treatment plants to approach the appropriate regulatory authorities to divert monitoring strategies to these newer testing methods.

“All of us [wastewater treatment plant managers] have permits that obligate us to monitor in specific ways for specific compounds,” Babatola said. “Those are usually in our NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination] permits. When most permits were issued, these compounds had not emerged as a concern. So it’s only the newer permits, and the ones being renewed, that would have the potential to have [the newer testing methods] built in.”

The newer detection methods, Babatola explained, focus on time-weighted exposures, compared to the older methods that require one sample taken from effluent during a 24-hour period. The time-weighted exposures enable a different kind of measurement — qualitative versus quantitative.

“Time-weighted averages are meaningful because they tell us what the organisms see in the water,” Babatola said. “They [organisms] live in the water. They don’t take a break and go somewhere else.”
Twenty-four-hour sampling presents problems in accuracy.

If a sample is taken on “a day that has an average concentration of these compounds, you won’t see it by our instrumentation,” Babatola said. On the other hand, a day that has particularly high concentration of one compound may make it appear as though there is a source within the watershed that produces an excessive amount of a specific compound.

The newer integrative passive sampling methods — the Semi-Permeable Membrane Device (SPMD) and the Polar Organic Compound Integrative Sampler (POCIS) — enable scientists to see how much of a certain compound is concentrated during a prolonged period, from 28 to 32 days. SPMD and POCIS both were developed by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The integrative methods are “meaningful,” as they aggregate all that goes through in 28 days, making it readable by laboratory instruments, “and whatever numbers you get makes sense in terms of what organisms are exposed to,” Babatola said.

Different from SPMD and POCIS is Thin Layer Chromatography, or TLC, developed by scientists at the University of California–Davis. TLC provides a more qualitative analysis, Babatola explained.

“[TLC] ... can also be put in the water for a prolonged period,” Babatola said. “It will aggregate a bunch of compounds, and you can see them. But because it hasn’t been calibrated, you don’t know how much [of a certain compound] was there per unit of time. You can average it out, but you don’t know how accurate you would be. It’s a screening method.”

Overall, the past year has seen information on testing methods and analyses grow, and the calibration of such integrative samplers as SPMD and POCIS advance. However, the technology has not really changed — but awareness of it has, Babatola stated.

“Ten years ago the technology was not there; 5 years ago it was, and it’s being refined still,” Babatola said.

Giving It to Them Straight
Being on the forefront of research often means being the bearer of bad news. But just how “bad” is it? How does one inform the public that the old swimming hole has traces of the synthetic estrogen ethinylestradiol — the active ingredient in birth control pills?

According to Babatola, it’s all about maintaining a proper perspective. “There’s no doubt, that if you give information on what we’re developing without properly couching it in a proper perspective, people will be unreasonably scared, of course,” he said.

However, “couching it,” Babatola noted, does not mean withholding information. “Proper perspective does not mean that you gloss over the risks, either,” he said.

Instead, Babatola said, what those in the scientific community can do is explain the difference between a time-weighted exposure to these compounds versus an episodic exposure. For example, a soccer field irrigated with treated effluent may seem risky to some community members. However, when given the proper perspective, soccer moms and dads can lessen their worries.

“The exposure that somebody has when they play on the soccer field — that’s episodic exposure,” Babatola explained. “We see effects from aggregated, time-weighted exposures, so if somebody were to lie in that [soccer field’s] grass continuously for 30 days, it should be a concern. It they play soccer four times a week for the summer, it should be a limited concern.”

Witherspoon shared another example of time-weighted exposure taken from a white paper to be presented at the WEFTEC session: According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, with each person consuming about 2 L of water each day, a person during the course of 70 years would consume approximately 51,000 L of water. In order for a person to ingest the equivalent of one 200-mg ibuprofen tablet through water, assuming ibuprofen were detected in advanced treated recycled water at the level of 1 part per trillion, a person would have to consume 3,913,894 lifetimes of drinking water.

Witherspoon added that it’s important to bear in mind that while emerging contaminants are being detected at low levels in the environment, “the fact that a chemical is listed as an [emerging contaminant] does not necessarily mean that it is hazardous or detrimental to the environment.”

Meghan Oliver, WE&T


A Compound by Any Other Name...

Compounds of emerging concern. Emerging contaminants. Endocrine-disrupting compounds. Well, which is it?

Such terms have bounced around the water and wastewater industry to refer to pharmaceuticals, personal care products, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and other contaminants that enter the world’s waterways. This year at WEFTEC.06®, a special session on such contaminants is titled “Compounds of Emerging Concern: Endocrine Disrupting Compounds.” The term “compounds of emerging concern,” or CECs, has taken the lead in the terminology debate.

Akin Babatola, laboratory and environmental compliance manager for the City of Santa Cruz (Calif.), and vice chair of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Laboratory Practices Committee, explains why.

“There’s a distinction, because all of the compounds that are pollutants under the Clean Water Act [CWA] are of concern,” Babatola said. “But [some] are of emerging concern for any number of reasons.”
CWA, enacted in 1972, was an update of an earlier law known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. CWA came about due to the need to control the discharge of pollutions into U.S. waters to retain waterways’ beneficial uses, Babatola explained.

When CWA was written, it accounted for the pollutants known to be in the waters that were measurable: biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids, oils, greases, and metals. Yet CWA had foresight and took into account pollutants that were unidentifiable, as well as those that would emerge with time, and termed them toxins.

“It [CWA] also had in its spirit the intent of simply restoring the pristine nature of those waters, which means, that even though [some chemicals were unable to be identified], it had the wisdom of knowing that there are compounds that will be either invented, or that have been invented but have not been identified, that will need to be controlled,” Babatola said.

These compounds have been coined “emerging” because they can now be identified. “Thirty years ago we were unable to see them in any analytical sense,” Babatola said.

A Closer Look
A “boom” in the construction of wastewater treatment plants occurred when CWA was enacted, Babatola said. Sewer lines criss-crossed the country and brought wastewater to these plants for treatment.
Instead of having a half-million septic tanks and a leach field, one pipe now collected all of that wastewater and, after treatment, would discharge it into U.S. waterbodies, he explained.

“Now multiply that a few thousand times to take into account city populations, and you now concentrate all of those diffused, little compounds we couldn’t see anyway and they now discharge through a common channel. You could now see a magnification of their impact,” Babatola said.

This concentration of compounds enabled scientists to start thinking about their concentrated impact and how to measure it.

“Although we didn’t have the technology in the ’70s and ’80s, it was predictable that concentrating the discharge of effluence would have some affect, and now those affects are emerging, so the compounds that create those affects are compounds of emerging concern,” Babatola said.

 Another reason to promote the term compounds of emerging concern is that the aquatic organisms that live among pollutants have now had long-term exposure to these newer pollutants, Babatola noted.
“We know how [aquatic organisms] used to look [and] how their population structures used to be,” Babatola said.

Now faced with newer chemicals, their population structure is changing.

“All pollutants are of concern, but these are of emerging concern,” Babatola concluded.

— Meghan Oliver, WE&T

NASA’s James Hansen to Speak at WEFTEC

James Hansen, chief of the NASA Institute for Space Studies (New York) will speak on global warming at the WEFTEC®.06 Opening General Session. 

A lead climate scientist, Hansen will address the much-debated topic of climate change, presenting potential future scenarios of Earth’s climate, as well as the practical implications of global warming for hydrology and water management.

Hansen was trained in physics and astronomy in the space science program at the University of Iowa (Iowa City). His early research on the properties of Venus’ clouds led to their identification as sulfuric acid. He joined NASA in 1967, and since the late 1970s has engaged in the study and development of computer programs that simulate the planet’s climate. Such computer simulations allow scientists to better understand the human impact on the climate.

In the 1980s, Hansen testified before congressional committees regarding climate change, helping to broaden awareness of the global warming trend. He has published numerous papers on the topic, including “Global Warming in the Twenty-first Century: An Alternative Scenario” and “Defusing the Global Warming Time Bomb.”

Hansen was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (Washington, D.C.) in 1995, and received the prestigious Heinz Environment Award for his research on global warming in 2001. 

The Opening General Session will be held Oct. 23 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Information on the session is available at

— Meghan Oliver, WE&T  

CReWSers Will Launch Big ‘D’-fense for Ops Challenge

2005 Champions Will Press Home Court Advantage in Dallas


WEFTEC®.06 is living up to the adage that everything is bigger in Texas, and the 19th Annual Operations Challenge is no exception. Organizers expect that the maximum of 40 teams will compete to see who is champion of the wastewater treatment industry’s premier operations and maintenance competition. Participating teams are listed below.

The location also adds some pressure to the reigning Division I champions, the TRA (Trinity River Authority) CReWSers from the Water Environment Association of Texas, who will defend their title on home turf. Team captain Dale Burrow said he thinks competing in Texas gives the CReWSers a home court advantage.

“We get to practice a little bit longer, up to the day of the competition, whereas normally we’re off for at least a full week before we get our hands back on the equipment and everything,” Burrow said.
But Jim Borton, captain of last year’s Division II winners, the Ohio Water Environment Association s.C.R.A.P.P.E.R.S, isn’t worried about the home court advantage giving the CReWSers a leg up. The s.C.R.A.P.P.E.R.S are focusing on their training program.

The team’s training schedule called for members to start practicing once or twice a week beginning in mid-July, Borton said. Arranging times for those training sessions can be tricky, he said. While the entire team works for the City of Wooster (Ohio), they are spread throughout the city and on different shifts. Borton said the team will schedule practices near shift changes to accommodate as many teammates as possible. “In fact, 2 weeks ago, before our state contest, two of us on our days off came in at 10 o’clock at night to catch one guy going off of second shift and one guy going on to third,” he said.

Even with a new team member this year, the s.C.R.A.P.P.E.R.S swept all five events at the Ohio competition in June and won the state Division I title, Borton said. He noted that any overall losses in the experience category are offset by gains in the physical and speed categories.

In comparing the team’s times at the 2006 Ohio WEA competition in June to last year’s Division I times, Borton said that while continued practice is necessary, he feels that the team “will be able to hold their own.”

The CReWSers have the same team competing as last year and will also use the same strategy, Burrow said. Last year, the CReWSers switched from trying to complete events as fast as possible to trying to complete them with as few penalties as possible.

“We’ve always made the mistake of just trying to get out there and run the fastest time we can,” Burrow said. He explained that running too fast leads to penalties that eat at the team during the event, which can lead to more penalties and slower times.

“This year we’re going to go in, just like we did last year, and just try to relax and try to make as clean of a run as we can,” Burrow said.

At press time, the CReWSers had been practicing for the process control event as much as possible, Burrow said, but planned to begin their serious training at the beginning of August.

“With the way everybody’s shift falls, it looks like we’re going to go 3 days a week for a couple of hours a day,” Burrow said. “The week before [the competition], we’ll probably go full days.”

Fast Reaction Times
In addition to speed and accuracy on familiar events, this year, a clean run will require discerning how to streamline a completely redesigned laboratory event. Instead of each member performing one of eight laboratory procedures independently, team members will work as a team to perform all steps of a biochemical oxygen demand analysis according to the 18th edition of Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater. While speaking was prohibited in the old event, it will be essential in the new one.

“I think it will be a lot more exciting to watch the lab event now than what it [has] been in the past,” Borton said. “I think it’s kind of nice to make it a team event where everybody has to be part of it.”
Burrow said that the CReWSers are most looking forward to the new lab event. “We’ve always been really good at lab, and so we’re going to try to put as much time into that one as we can,” he said.
Borton said he thinks the new lab event will be interesting. “With a new event, you never know quite how everyone has figured out how to cut corners and still be legal,” he said.

Because the event uses meters, Borton said, the crux will be how long it takes the meters to stabilize before a result can be trusted. “That’s always been an issue when you’re using a meter,” he said.

Steve Spicer, WE&T


2006 Operations Challenge Events List

Process Control Event. The 2006 event will be similar to previous years’ events, with a few minor changes in organization and scoring. Teams must answer several multiple-choice questions, some short math questions with multiple-choice answers, and up to four operational type scenarios with four to six questions each that may require considerable calculations. The event is timed, with a maximum of 25 minutes allowed for completion. If a team completes the test before the end of the event, its actual time is recorded. The event should be viewed as an opportunity for a team to demonstrate its accumulated knowledge of wastewater treatment and skill in plant process control. The changes from last year are the following:

  • Time is increased to 25 minutes.
  • There are more extended multiple-choice questions and fewer regular multiple-choice questions.
  • Partial credit will be given for work shown in operational scenarios.
  • Penalties for wrong answers have been decreased.
  • The only difference between Division I and Division II is the number of operational scenarios involved.

Godwin Maintenance Event. This event will test the teams’ ability to respond to a pumping station outage through the routine maintenance and operation of an emergency backup pump. Teams will prepare a Godwin Pumps of America (Bridgeport, N.J.) Dri-Prime model CD100M diesel-driven, trailer-mounted solids-handling pumpset for service at a disabled lift station. Tasks include removing, installing, and rebuilding various parts. Procedures are outlined in an operations and maintenance worksheet.

Collections Systems Event. Teams will remove a section of in-service 8-in. (200-mm) gravity polyvinyl chloride pipe, fabricate a replacement section with a 4-in. (100-mm) service saddle, and install the replacement section with flexible repair couplings. Teams also must install a Sigma 900 Max sampler, manufactured by Hach Co. (Loveland, Colo.). After completion, judges will evaluate the repair’s watertightness.

Safety Event. Teams will respond to an unconscious colleague in a manhole. After testing the atmosphere and ventilating the confined space, they will assemble fall-protection equipment and descend from a Fibergrate Composite Structures (Dallas) training platform to retrieve the victim.

Laboratory Event. Teams must perform all steps of a biochemical oxygen demand analysis using equipment provided by YSI Inc. (Yellow Spring, Ohio), following all method requirements as outlined in Method 5210B of the 18th edition of Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater (with the exception of using transfer pipettes instead of wide-bore volumetrics for planting seed correction series and sample).

Good luck, teams!

Steve Spicer, WE&T 

2006 Operations Challenge Teams*

The Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) Operations Challenge Committee and participating Member Associations welcome the following teams to the 19th annual Operations Challenge in Dallas:

Region 3 (Inter-American Association of Sanitary and Environmental Engineers)
LRWU Connection (Arkansas Water Environment Association [WEA])
Canadian Cross Connection (British Columbia Water and Waste Association)
Folsom Breakout (California WEA)
SRCSD Interceptors (California WEA)
L.A. Wrecking Crew (California WEA)
Pumpers (Central States WEA)
Shovelers (Central States WEA)
Lauderdale Knights (Florida WEA)
Orange Crush (Florida WEA)
Maui Bad Boys (Hawaii WEA)
Midland Microbes (Michigan WEA)
Force Maine (New England WEA)
Sewer Snakes (New England WEA)
West Warwick (New England WEA)
Cape Shore Workers (New Jersey WEA)
Bowery Boys (New York WEA)
Brown Tide (New York WEA)
Sludge Cats (North Carolina WEA)
Allen County Incinerators (Ohio WEA)
s.C.R.A.P.P.E.R.S. (Ohio WEA)
Silly Eights (Ohio WEA)
Dung Beetles (WEA of Ontario)
Sludge Hammers (WEA of Ontario)
River Rangers (Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association)
Toxic Force (Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association)
DELCORA Loonatics (Pennsylvania WEA)
Aurora’s Ascending Aerobes (Rocky Mountain WEA)
Commode Commandos (Rocky Mountain WEA)
Virtual Velocity (WEA of South Carolina)
Aqua Techs (WEA of Texas)
Brazos Basin Boys (WEA of Texas)
Dillo XXPress (WEA of Texas)
San Antonio Power SAWS (WEA of Texas)
TRA CReWSers (WEA of Texas)
Wasatch All Stars (WEA of Utah)
HRSD G-Force (Virginia WEA)
Spotsylvania Synergy (Virginia WEA)

*Complete list at press time.